The Wildlife of Yellowstone You Might Encounter

When visiting popular national parks in the United States, a handful of things draw visitors’ attention. Parks like the Grand Canyon or Sequoia National Park offer the superlative of natural structures with chasms spanning miles or trees that easily dwarf what you see at home. The historical value of parks such as Mesa Verde or Dry Tortugas draws you in to learn more about earlier civilizations. One thing that each national park has in common, however, is a vast and diverse population of mammals, reptiles, birds, and fish that call those lands home. Our neighboring park, Yellowstone, is no exception and in fact hosts the largest concentration of mammals in the lower 48 states. Read our guide to learn more about the wildlife of Yellowstone and some tips to help you prepare for any chance encounters! 

There’s always more going on in Big Sky, Montana! Fill out the rest of your itinerary with our winter activities and summer activities guides, so you’re prepared to visit any time of the year. Make your to-do list today! 


What Wildlife of Yellowstone Might You Find? 


Though many of the mammals found throughout the park are considered small, there are a handful of large species you should be aware of. You can find eight species of large-hooved mammals: bighorn sheep, bison, elk, moose, mountain goats, mule deer, pronghorn, and white-tailed deer. There are also seven large predators you should keep your eyes peeled for: black bears, Canada lynx, coyotes, grizzly bears, mountain lions, wolverines, and wolves. 

Fun Fact: The Gray wolf once roamed everywhere from Mexico to the Arctic tundra, but loss of habitat and extermination programs led to a steep decline in their population in the early-1900s. In 1973, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem as one of three recovery areas, and by 1995, their population had been restored. 


Birdwatching is an extremely popular activity around Yellowstone National Park for a great reason; there are nearly 300 species of bird that you can spot on the property! If you are particularly interested in birds of prey, there are 19 species of raptors that the park supports in breeding, falling under the families of owls, eagles, ospreys, and falcons. 


Reptiles are one of the less-studied animals at Yellowstone National Park. Now, there are only 6 confirmed species: bullsnakes, prairie rattlesnakes, rubber boas, sagebrush lizards, common garter snakes, and terrestrial garter snakes. Though none of these species are federally listed as threatened or endangered, you should keep your distance to avoid injury to yourself or the reptile. 


When the park was first established, many of the waters were fishless. As a result, a combination of native and non-native species now live in Yellowstone’s lakes and rivers. If you are interested in fishing while you visit, make sure you obtain a Fishing Permit online before you arrive. In addition, make sure you read Yellowstone’s fishing regulations so you can enjoy a safe, legal, and fun fishing experience! 

What Precautions Should I Take with the Wildlife of Yellowstone? 

With nearly 400 overall species that call Yellowstone home, it’s almost a guarantee that you will encounter a handful during your visit. To increase your chance to see wildlife, the early morning and evening hours are when the animals are more active, but it’s entirely luck and coincidence when you happen to see them. Yellowstone National Park’s website offers a more in-depth explanation of when and where you are most likely to see each separate species. You can also participate in a wildlife tour for a guided experience of the park! 

The most important thing to remember as you explore the natural wonder of Yellowstone is that wildlife is something to be experienced from a distance. The behaviors of wildlife can easily be affected by human intervention. Especially in the case of sensitive animals like birds, fish, and reptiles, you need to refrain from feeding, approaching, using birdcalls, or anything else that might confuse or scare the animal. For large predators, keep a safe distance for your own sake. Luckily, the park is maintained by a talented staff of park rangers that help prevent incidents with wildlife, but it always helps to come prepared. Visit Yellowstone’s website for more information on how you can stay safe in the event of an encounter with a bear or another predator. 

Book Your Stay at the Wilson Hotel lobby of Wilson Hotel in Big Sky Montana near Yellowstone

After you’ve spent the day spotting the abundant wildlife of Yellowstone and enjoying the trails and tours of the park, make sure you have a comfortable, affordable, and convenient place to retreat to at the end of the day! The Wilson Hotel in Big Sky is the ideal place to call home while you explore Montana! There are a variety of luxury suites that embody the charm of the surrounding area, and include complimentary amenities that helps elevate your experience. Check availability at The Wilson Hotel and book your stay today!